Sunday, January 4, 2009

Guidance for Fathers Doing a Manhood Ceremony for Sons

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

Boys today are in great need for something that helps them transition from late boyhood to early manhood. For most boys this period is somewhere between 13 and 16 years of age. This is the time in a boy’s life when he is experiencing physical puberty, but more importantly, the boy is asking “What does it mean to be a man?” The father, or another significant male presence in his life (or even mother if the boy is without a father), needs to be there to help this boy transition into manhood. The following are some suggestions for a father to use in guiding his son into manhood and having a ceremony to celebrate this important time in his life:

1. Seek to live a godly example in front or your son.
The most important thing we do as fathers is to live an exemplary life. How we live will have far more influence on our children than what we say. The most important thing our children can see us do is spend time with God and love their mother!

This does not mean you have to be perfect. You will fail. However, when you fail, be man enough to admit it: to yourself, to God, to the person you hurt, and to your son. Many times I have had to go to my boys and say, “Boys, Daddy blew it last night when I lost my temper. I need to ask you to forgive me.” They can learn as much from our failures as they can from our successes.

2. Take time to proactively instruct your son in what it means to be a man.
I take my two sons on regular “dates.” We include 3 things in these dates: fun, food, and “man of God” time. Our “man of God” times are where I take about 10 minutes and just feature one characteristic of a man of God. Our list includes such things as: a man of God seeks to live a pure life, treats women with respect, uses his time wisely, has other godly men in his life, etc. At each date I review our list so the boys are reminded of what we have covered. How my boys respond to this list will partly determine when I decide to do the manhood ceremony with them.

Albert Mohler has put together an excellent list of manhood qualities that you could consider using:
Spiritual maturity sufficient to lead a wife and children.
Personal maturity sufficient to be a responsible husband and father.
Economic maturity sufficient to hold an adult job and handle money.
Physical maturity sufficient to work and protect a family.
Sexual maturity sufficient to marry and fulfill God’s purposes.
Moral maturity sufficient to lead as an example of righteousness.
Ethical maturity sufficient to make responsible decisions.
Worldview maturity sufficient to understand what is really important.
Relational maturity sufficient to understand and respect others.
Social maturity sufficient to make a contribution to society.
Verbal maturity sufficient to communicate and articulate as a man.
Character maturity sufficient to demonstrate courage under fire.
Biblical maturity sufficient to lead at some level in the church.

3. When you feel he is ready, plan some kind of manhood ceremony whereby you publicly announce that your son has now moved from being a boy to being a young man.
We have public ceremonies for birthdays, graduations, weddings, and other achievements. I believe the transition from boyhood to manhood is one which should involve a ceremony. This manhood ceremony will affirm a young man as well as challenge him to assume greater responsibilities in life. You have to prayerfully determine when you feel your son is ready for this. I had a manhood ceremony for my son when he was 15 years old.

a. Discuss the ceremony with your son.
Tell him why you want to do this and what it would be like. I think you will find that most boys will be a bit hesitant about it at first, but deep down they will like the idea.

b. Give your son some assignments to complete to “earn his way” into the ceremony.
For my son, I had him look up some passages on being a man of God, write a one page description of a man of God, and do some reading. You have to determine the assignments appropriate for your son. I have heard of some fathers who require their son to take their mother out on a date as part of their assignment. I like this idea.

c. Invite family and special friends.
You can determine how large to make this, but I personally like to keep it sort of small and private (i.e. 10 – 15 people max). Be sure to invite some godly men that you consider a good example to your son. You can come up with the list of invitees with your wife and son. Your son will want some of his peers present, and you can invite their fathers to come with them. Everyone who comes does not have to be a Christian. This ceremony can be a great testimony to unsaved men and their sons.

d. Encourage those who come to bring a special symbolic gift to your son.
For example, someone might give your son a nice sword and use that gift to challenge your son to be a mighty warrior for God. Another might write a special letter to your son and include a gift. At the ceremony, each person will present their gift and say a few words to your son.

e. Plan the details of the ceremony with your son.
Many men like to do something outdoors to celebrate this event. You might do a cook-out, bonfire, and then have the presentations around the fire. You could involve something challenging or recreational as part of the event (i.e. paintball, baseball game, frisbee golf, etc.).

f. Prayerfully consider what you will share and give to your son at the ceremony.
As the father, your part of the ceremony is the most important. Choose a gift he will always remember and keep. When you share, seek to affirm the positive qualities you see in your son, as well as appropriately challenge him to pursue greater godliness. You could ask your wife to share as well.

g. Take some time to pray over your son and speak a blessing to him.
The Old Testament is filled with examples of a father imparting a blessing over his son(s). A blessing is a spoken word of encouragement and acceptance to your son. This could actually be the most important part of the ceremony. Whatever you say to your son, also give him a copy in writing.

Final Thoughts
I think you will be amazed at the huge impact this will have on your son. I would love to hear from you concerning how this goes for you and ideas you have to help others who might do it. Please email me at: May God bless you as you seek to be a godly father!

Resources to help you: Raising a Modern-Day Knight by Robert Lewis; Mantracks, A Rite of Passage Program for Christian Men by Ellis Hackler; Raising Boys by Dr. James Dobson; The Dad Difference by Josh McDowell;